What is the Billboard Hot 100 list and why should music teachers care?


Most folks have heard of Billboard magazine and know it tracks all sorts of weekly music sales and play stats. Today, I wanted to explain how the most prestigious chart was put together. What exactly does the Hot 100 measure and why should music teachers care?

The “Hot 100” chart began in 1958 as a way to track all the music popularity in one spot. Billboard was already tracking radio play, single sales, album sales, and more but the Hot 100 attempted to capture all of that in one snapshot to see what the most-played song in the country was that week regardless of medium. As media evolved, so did the Hot 100 which now incorporates YouTube, streaming services, and even artist website plays in addition to the more traditional measurements when determining the final chart for the week.

While all of that makes sense, the actual chart release date is the most confusing part of the whole process. Because it collects data from multiple charts which are released on multiple dates, there needs to be some lag time for processing. Here is an example of the timeline Billboard has provided:

  • Monday, January 1: sales tracking-week begins
  • Wednesday, January 3: airplay tracking-week begins
  • Sunday, January 7: sales tracking-week ends
  • Tuesday, January 9: airplay tracking-week ends
  • Thursday, January 11: new chart released
  • Saturday, January 20th: date chart is “issued”

The discrepancy of the release date and the issue date is a vestige of the turnaround time to print magazines. Billboard reports the new chart on its website when it’s released.

I don’t use the Hot 100 chart in my class every week – especially when songs have particularly long reigns at the top  – but it’s something I frequently discuss with my kids in class. They know the songs and it’s educational to debate why they’re popular, discuss the songs rapidly ascending, and more.

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What is the Billboard Hot 100 list and why should music teachers care?

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